The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) self-refers as the “Gold Standard in Media Audits” and is the place to go if you want to find out current U.S. newspaper circulation figures. Unfortunately, you have to be a member — they’re not giving this sensitive information away — and so it’s difficult to get up-to-the-minute data. You can find out the “Top 200 Newspapers by Largest Reported Circulation” ), but not what those circulation figures actually are, and how they’re trending.
But the ongoing decline in newspaper circulation in North America is not a well-kept secret, and if the ABC won’t spill the beans, others will.
According to a February article in Media Life Magazine, “in the U.S., the circulation of paid-for papers dropped 4 percent from 2001 to 2005, hitting 53.3 million. It also dropped 2.3 percent in 2005 compared to the year earlier.”
A May 2005 article in The Washington Post reported that “circulation at 814 of the nation’s largest daily newspapers declined 1.9 percent over the six months ended March 31 compared with the same period last year…The decline continued a 20-year trend in the newspaper industry as people increasingly turn to other media such as the Internet and 24-hour cable news networks for information.”
In the midst of this gloom, the February 17th issue of The Economist reported that in India there are some 3000 big newspapers, and they experienced a 12.9% increase in circulation last year. Competition is fierce, and profits substantial.
The article also made reference to a key factor that may explain this bright news: Internet access is available to only 1.2% of Indians over the age of 12.
I remember years ago at a DRUPA trade show in Germany (DRUPA focuses on the printing business) meeting Naresh Khanna, the editor of Indian Printer & Publisher magazine. That year everyone was speculating about the possible impact of the Internet, but Naresh said to me: “Oh, we don’t care very much about the Internet in India. We’re just excited that we’ll soon have color pictures in our newspapers.”